Blogger: Elaine Chen
When I think of my childhood, I think of the previous 10+ years of my life I spent in a dance studio. As a dancer, I was trained in competitive dance and spent 15-20 hours of my week in classes and rehearsals. Friday nights and Saturdays were reserved for rehearsal, and if a show or competition was coming up, I was committed to rehearsals every day of the week.
As time went on, it became clear to me that I wasn’t meant for a career in dance. Now as an accounting graduate student, I often look back at those years I spent in dance and wonder if all that time, energy, and money were wasted. I now realize that the hours I spent in rehearsal pushing myself physically and mentally beyond my limits taught me more than dance technique. In fact, many of the valuable skills I learned as a dancer apply as an accounting student.
The blisters, bruises, and injuries taught me more than physical endurance. I had to first learn the skill of mental endurance before I could endure physical pain. Enduring pain and discomfort taught me to think BEYOND the current moment and to pursue the future reward. It wasn’t about the physical pain in the moment but the reward that I would benefit from in the future. In dance, the future reward was improved technique or flexibility. As an accounting student, the future benefit was a thorough understanding of the subject, better grades, and a more promising future.
When I was in the dance room, I didn’t have Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram around to distract me from what I should be focused on in the moment. In fact, in class and rehearsals, there was very little that could actually distract me from what I should be concentrating on. My dance teacher used to yell, “Stop thinking about what you’re having for dinner. Your mind should be here!”
Studies show that people are most efficient when there are no distractions and that multitasking actually inhibits your performance and productivity. Dance classes and rehearsals trained me to focus my full energy and mind on one thing in the moment and to ignore everything else. As a student, this applies to my study habits by forcing myself to ignore everything around me and to concentrate on the material in front of me. Dance trained me to use my full concentration by blocking out the distractions around me.
One of the most important parts of a strong dance performance is the team’s ability to synchronize their dance movements and to perform coherently together as a team. In a truly well-coordinated performance, the group of dancers must react according to the movements of the leader up front and sync their movements according to the timing of the leader. If one dancer falls behind, that dancer impacts the rest of the group, and the remaining dancers must improvise and adjust accordingly. The final performance must come across as a well-coordinated and synchronized dance performance that is the product of hours of team effort and practice. Similarly in school and work, a successful final product or goal cannot be achieved without a great team.
Applying my experience as a group member of a dance team to my experience in school, I learned to select my group members carefully because each team member plays an important role in the performance and success of a group project. Similar to a dance performance, the dynamics of every team required me to react according to the skill level and talents of each individual team member. In a well-coordinated team, each member supports and complements each other in a different way. From my past experiences as a team member in dance, school, and work, I learned that a truly functional and supportive team is an efficient and effective one.
There is a saying that goes “knowledge is power.” I would argue that the ability to apply that knowledge is what makes knowledge powerful. Simply put, it’s not about what you know – it’s about how you apply what you know.
Ultimately, anything you learn from one experience can be applied to another. The skills I learned from years of dance practice trained and prepared me to become a better accounting student and employee. I now realize that those ups, downs, thrills, and struggles from each of my past experiences shaped me into the person I am today. While accumulating knowledge can make you a “powerful” person, the ability to apply that knowledge provides a much more valuable skill. The key is to realize that none of your past experiences were wasted and to apply what you have already learned and practiced to anything you are striving toward today.